MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Beth Kozel M.D. Ph.D
The Laboratory of Vascular and Matrix Genetics
LASKER CLINICAL RESEARCH SCHOLAR
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Elastin is a protein that allows the blood vessels to stretch and recoil. It is made as a child grows but once the child reaches adolescence, the body stops making elastin. With age, the body slowly begins to lose elastin and blood vessels become less flexible.
In order to study what happens when a vessel has less elastin, we used a mouse that makes half of the normal amount of elastin, the Eln+/- mouse. These mice have higher blood pressure, stiffer blood vessels and decreased blood flow to end organs such as the brain. We then used a blood pressure medication, minoxidil (this same medicine when used in topical form helps hair growth), and treated mice from weaning until 3 months of age. With treatment, Eln+/- blood pressure was lower, the vessels were less stiff and blood flow to the brain increased. That effect remained for weeks after the medication was stopped. Additional studies showed that more elastin was present in the vessel wall after treatment and more than 100 other connective tissue genes were also changed, suggesting vessel remodeling. Minoxidil works by causing cells in the blood vessel to relax, leading to a more open, or dilated artery. When taken chronically, our data suggest that the connective tissue associated with a blood vessel remodels, fixing it in a more open state and allowing better blood flow to the organ on the other side, in this case, the brain.